The Cars.com American-Made Index
|What Are the Top American-Made Cars?|
|Cars.com's American-Made Index rates vehicles built and bought in the U.S. Factors include sales, where the car's parts come from and whether the car is assembled in the U.S. We disqualify models with a domestic parts content rating below 75 percent, models built exclusively outside the U.S. or models soon to be discontinued without a U.S.-built successor.|
|Rank||Make/Model||U.S. Assembly Location||Last Rank|
|1.||Toyota Camry||Georgetown, Ky.;
|2.||Honda Accord||Marysville, Ohio;
|3.||Ford Escape||Kansas City, Mo.||—|
|4.||Ford Focus||Wayne, Mich.||—|
|5.||Chevrolet Malibu||Kansas City, Kan.||3|
|6.||Honda Odyssey||Lincoln, Ala.||4|
|7.||Dodge Ram 1500*||Warren, Mich.||—|
|8.||Toyota Tundra||San Antonio||7|
|9.||Jeep Wrangler||Toledo, Ohio||—|
|10.||Toyota Sienna||Princeton, Ind.||6|
Excludes hybrid variants (applies to Camry, Escape and Malibu). The Camry excludes the related Venza; the Accord excludes the related Crosstour.
In today's global economy, there's no easy way to determine just how American a car is. Many cars built in the U.S., for example, are assembled using parts that come from elsewhere. Some cars assembled in the U.S. from largely American-made parts don't sell well, meaning fewer Americans are employed to build them. Cars.com's American-Made Index recognizes cars that are built here, have a high amount of domestic parts and are bought in large numbers by American consumers.
Accord Up, F-150 Down
The Toyota Camry, which dethroned the Ford F-150 pickup in last year's AMI, remains at the top for 2010. But the No. 2 model, Honda's strong-selling Accord, surged unexpectedly. Since the AMI's 2006 inception, we've scrutinized two generations of Accords. In the past, Honda sold few imported Accords to U.S. buyers — "a percentage below 10 percent for many years," spokesman Ed Miller said — but the Accord spent several years with its domestic parts percentage in the 60s. That's not the case this year. With all Accords sold in the U.S. now assembled in either Ohio or Alabama, the Accord's 75 percent domestic content and strong sales came close to unseating Toyota for first place.
The Accord is only the most noticeable changing of the guard. Half the models in last year's AMI didn't make it back, including the venerable F-150. Blame a decline in its domestic parts content, which dropped to 55 percent for the 2010 model year. In past years the F-150 has held steady around 80 percent domestic parts content; even last year's redesign, which had the potential to change the figures, returned a respectable 75 percent rating. That's not the case anymore.
"Fluctuating [parts content] figures are pretty common," Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer said. Changes in sourcing, drivetrain components or parts pricing "can make the numbers move around quite a bit.
"As we move to more global sourcing," Schirmer said, "obviously the percentages change."
Ford has stayed strong on the list, however, with the Escape SUV and Focus small car slotting in at third and fourth, respectively. Although neither one made last year's AMI, both have appeared on it previously.
GM, once responsible for half the models on the AMI, is down to just one player: the Kansas-built Chevrolet Malibu, which comes in fifth place. The automaker's full-size pickups — the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra — were once regulars here. Production of both trucks is split between the U.S. and Mexico, however, and today's models have only a 65 percent domestic parts content.
Chrysler, whose Michigan-built Sebring landed a spot in the 2008 AMI, is back with two models. The Sebring isn't one of them, but the Michigan-built Ram 1500 pickup and Ohio-built Jeep Wrangler SUV make the list. Neither vehicle has made the AMI before. Filling in the remaining places are the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Tundra and Toyota Sienna. All three return from last year's AMI.
More Cars, Higher Content
Domestic parts content, the documenting and listing of which has been mandated by the American Automobile Labeling Act since 1994, rates the percentage by cost of a vehicle's parts that originated in the U.S. or Canada. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects the figures each year, but the list alone shouldn't drive your purchase considerations. Consider the 2010 models NHTSA pegged at 90 percent, the highest percentage earned by any vehicles this model year:
|Make/Model||Domestic Parts Content||Assembly Location|
|Ford Crown Victoria||90 percent||St. Thomas, Ontario|
|Ford Escape||90 percent||Kansas City, Mo.|
|Ford Explorer||90 percent||Louisville, Ky.;
|Ford Explorer Sport Trac||90 percent||Louisville, Ky.|
|Ford Focus||90 percent||Wayne, Mich.|
|Ford Ranger||90 percent||St. Paul, Minn.|
|Lincoln Town Car||90 percent||St. Thomas, Ontario|
|Mercury Grand Marquis||90 percent||St. Thomas, Ontario|
|Mercury Mariner||90 percent||Kansas City, Mo.|
|Mazda Tribute||90 percent||Kansas City, Mo.|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automaker data
Ford has the notable distinction of having a hand in all 10 models, but the Crown Victoria, Town Car and Grand Marquis are no longer available to consumers; all three are well on their way out. So is the Mariner from Ford's soon-to-be-shuttered Mercury brand. It's also anyone's guess how long the Tribute, an Escape/Mariner twin through Ford's once-leading stake in Mazda, will continue to be part of that family. Recent reports suggest that Mazda will split the Tribute from Ford over the next few years.
That said, a larger share of popular cars this year have high domestic parts content. That reverses a trend we've seen over the past few years. NHTSA reports that 49 models for the 2010 model year have 75 percent or higher domestic parts content. Through May, those models' DPC-eligible sales accounted for about 27 percent of the auto industry's new-car sales. That's much higher than a year ago when some 35 models with 75 percent or higher content accounted for only 19 percent of industry sales. Go back another year, and 58 models took 25 percent of industry sales; that's more models but a smaller share of sales.
The trend makes sense. With fluctuating currency values and the uncertainty of the euro, auto companies are scrambling to move assembly stateside. The current Chevrolet Aveo hails from South Korea, but GM plans to build the redesigned 2011 model at its Orion Township, Mich., plant. Kia recently began assembling its Sorento SUV, formerly imported from South Korea, in a plant at West Point, Ga. In late 2008, Honda Civic sedans began rolling off the automaker's newest U.S. plant in Greensburg, Ind.
Through late May of this year, some 3.1 million light-duty cars and trucks rolled off U.S. assembly lines, according to Automotive News data. That's about two-thirds of U.S. new-vehicle sales over roughly the same period. At the time of last year's AMI — a period squeezed by collapsing auto sales, closing factories and bankrupt automakers — U.S. factory production was less than half of U.S. car sales. That's down from around the two-thirds mark during the same periods in 2006 through 2008.
It's inexact science, to be sure. Most cars aren't sold as soon as they're built, and many end up going to car shoppers in Canada and Mexico. Some are for export only. Still, it's a pretty good indication of the homegrown nature of the cars we buy.
What About Exports?
Exports, of course, could upend everything. Suppose Americans buy only some of a certain model built here, leaving the rest to be exported. Shouldn't an automaker still get AMI credit for employing more American autoworkers to build a car even if it ends up in the hands of car shoppers in Europe or Asia? Yes, in theory.
But the effect would be scant, experts say. A host of factors — U.S. labor and materials costs, tariffs imposed by other countries, the cost of shipping — make U.S. auto exports a relative flyspeck.
"We do export some vehicles, but not large numbers," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research. CSM Worldwide analyst Joe Barker put the number at less than 5 percent of total North American auto production.
"The business philosophy of auto companies is 'build them where you sell them,' " Barker said. "This strategy keeps car companies in touch with customers, protects against currency fluctuations and is cost effective."